Marking 40 years of the debate over ‘right to life’

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This week, America marked the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Since 1973, the National Right to Life Committee estimates that 54,559,615 abortions have been performed in the United States. That’s a staggering figure, translating to an average of one abortion every 30 seconds; or more than 3,300 abortions per day.

And the chasm between Americans who seek to protect life and oppose abortion and those who believe in a woman’s right to choose continues to widen.

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In 1973, when Roe v. Wade first became law, a Gallup poll showed 56 percent of Americans favoried abortion rights. By 2012, that figure dropped to 41 percent, reflecting the shift in public opinion towards a culture of protecting life.

Law, however, has not followed that shift. With the majority of Americans polled – more than 52 percent in 2012 – believing abortion shsould be legal only under certain circumstances, our nation’s court system continues to uphold the 1973 ruling which banned most all restrictions on abortions.

With that law in place, the floodgates opened and the ruling of a right to access morphed into an on-demand service – a demand that now sees an abortion rate of some 3,300 per day.

Today, the debate has returned to the states, where grassroots efforts to pass legislation that supports a culture of life continue to grow. Here in Alabama, the Alabama House Republican Caucus plans to include new regulations for abortion clinics in its 2013 legislative agenda and state Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, is considering introducing his “personhood” legislation for the third year. If passed, the bill would define when life begins and, ultimately, create a state-level legal argument against Roe v. Wade.

What will happen in Alabama and other states remains to be seen. But we have learned in these 40 years that we cannot rely on a legal system to instill morality or foster humanity.